GNW100 - My first ever DNF
Going into GNW I honestly didn’t know how far I’d make it. I’d ended up limping after 2 training runs a couple of weeks before the race and my right leg still wasn’t feeling 100%. So my race plan was “Do or Die”. If my niggles were going to flair up, it would happen before Checkpoint 1 (28kms).
The start of the race was a nervous affair with lots of runners disguised as workmen huddled on the oval at Teralba as Dave counted down to the start of the race and with perfect timing we headed off across the oval at 6am, out the gate and onto the GNW as crossed the railway bridge.
The entire way to Heatons Gap I could feel niggles in my leg, but with only having run twice in the last few weeks I couldn’t tell if it was injury or my legs warming up. It was consuming a lot of my thoughts so I didn’t talk to people as much as I normally do that early in a race. We reached Heatons Gap and dad was there directing people across the road, I crossed the road and started powering up the hill, this is one of the steeper climbs of the race, I don’t actually mind it too much, it’s more a grind then anything else. Getting to the top and heading towards Heatons Lookout I realised that my leg felt fine, that climb must have finished off the warmup process and I was now ready to race.
I hit the jungle and as always it was a slow run, dodging downed trees, sliding on rocks, looking out for dots & ribbons on the trees, finding lost runners halfway up a hill. It’s always slow going through that part of the course, but I was feeling fine and I ran with a few different runners at stages which broke it up a little. Out of the jungle, then back into the jungle and past the cairns that someone spent an awful lot of time building. Then out of the jungle for the last time and onto the fire trail and into CP1. I was the first female in and mum as excited to see me. I spent about 30 seconds in the checkpoint as I dropped off one bag and grabbed another. I hadn’t drunk much of my bladder so I didn’t worry about refilling that, I just grabbed my 2 * 250ml Tailwind Soft Flasks and hit the trail.
The next section of fire trail isn’t particularly interesting, there are lookouts at different points which are nice, but the running is a bit boring, it’s easy, slightly undulating and surprisingly there were no snakes, a few goannas desperately running up trees and a Lyrebird who ran directly in front of me, but considering the weather I was surprised I didn’t come across any snakes.
The day had warmed up considerably which was very noticeable as we started the descent into Congewai. The track leads down from Barraba campsite and through private property across a paddock and out onto the dirt road. The guy I was running with at the time had a couple of his spectators down on the road on their bikes cheering him on and offering encouragement, they rode part of the way with us which helped break up the 7 or so km’s of dirt road running. The valley was very hot, I got onto the road at around 11am and being in a valley there was no breeze and the road had very little shade, I think this is when It started to go bad. I got to the school dead on my calculated split time and although I was hot, I still felt fine. Weigh in (I’d lost 2kgs), Bag Check (all good) & Checkout, back onto the road and towards the turnoff up to the Radio Tower.
This is when It started to go bad for me, I’ve done this particular climb up to the radio tower multiple times, even once when really messed up after getting lost in Congewai (I got distracted by ducks and missed the turnoff) and coming very close to running out of water. This day however it was the hardest it has ever been, the sun was beating down, there wasn’t as much shade as I would have liked and I felt drained, that hill took part of my soul, part that I was not going to get back.
I reached the top and picked up the pace on the ridgeway but I was feeling bad, my stomach was not happy and I forced a gel down to try and recuperate some of my lost energy. I was really drained, probably dehydrated, and very overheated, but it was hard to tell, I was too distracted by the fact that I felt crook. Down from the ridgeway and towards the paddocks at Watagan Creek. Not 1 but 2 cows stood in my way of the gate, I ran past the first cow and then did this wide run around the back of the 2nd cow (do cows kick?) before cutting back across to the gate. Across the little bridge and started climbing up out of the paddock on the other side, I was even feeling this climb and was not looking forward to climbing Warrawalong. Surprisingly I actually found Warrawalong easier then the radio tower, maybe my gel had kicked in a bit? I don’t know, but I made it to the top and hit the fire trail, then onto single trail. My stomach was getting worse and I could barely stomach even the Tailwind, I was drinking a lot of water, which was fine, I was carrying 1.5ltrs of water and 1ltr Tailwind. I started to struggle more and more on the hills as I was getting flatter with a lack of carbs, my time had slipped terribly and I was focused on a single goal of getting to the next Checkpoint and having some Coke in the desperate hope that it would settle my stomach.
The 2.5km run into the basin was hard, I felt terrible and hitting the checkpoint my support crew (Mum & Matt) knew that I was not doing well. I got some Coke into me, refilled my bladder and picked up my next bag of supplies. The Coke had not made me feel any better, I hoped I would pick up, but I knew that was asking for a lot. I hit the trail out of the Basin and turned right onto the GNW and the climb up to Walkers Ridge Rd. The climb wasn’t too bad, I took it pretty easy, I was far more worried about Yarramalong Rd. Hitting Walkers Ridge Rd and then turning onto the side trail leading to Cedar Brush I was feeling even worse. My stomach had started cramping bad, really bad, I was trying to get food in, but besides a few jelly beans I couldn’t get anything in and I don’t think it was digesting anyway. I was reduced to a walk on the track down to Cedar Brush as the pain would come in waves, causing me to stop and walk, then run a little. My right knee was also getting sore, but that was less of a distraction then my stomach.
Out of the bush and onto the road at Cedar Brush, it was already dark and I felt completely and utterly terrible. I knew my race was over. If mum had been there I would have gotten in the car then and there and gotten her to drive me to CP4. Yarramalong Road is my least favourite part of the GNW in general. But this night it was so much worse. I’d shuffle run a little, then a wave of cramps would take over my stomach and I’d be doubled over on the side of the road just hoping maybe If I puke I’ll feel better. I did not puke, but eventually the pain would lessen and I’d walk a little, then start shuffling some more. I made my way down the entire length of the road in this manner. Trotters and other runners would come past me, they all checked if I was alright. I wasn’t alright, but I was still moving and it was more useful that they got word ahead. They offered words of encouragement and comfort. I’m not sure how long I was on the road, hours I guess. It was kind of a blur. I was so glad when the speed sign changed to 60 and I knew I was coming into Yarramalong. I could hear mum asking people if they’d seen Melissa as I approached the school. I called out and she walked into the school with me. At the weigh in I found out I’d lost 3.3kgs (6% of my starting weight) and I was messed up…. So messed up.
Mum led me up to the first aid room and being their only customer I got wonderful attention. They assessed me (dehydrated, high pulse, cold skin etc) Then put me on a drip with a saline solution and something to settle my stomach. It took a very long time before I started to feel warm and just as long before I felt I could stomach anything, but I eventually ate some pumpkin soup with bread and cup of coke. I felt bad for Ryan who was there all dressed and ready to pace me to the next section but it was not to be. I was gone, mentally and physically (more physically). This was by far the worst I have ever been in a race, even worse then when I was staggering up Furber Steps in TNF100 and then attempted to get hypothermia.
I stayed in the First Aid room until I’d warmed up and was feeling better, better enough to go home, not better enough to run another 70 or so km’s. So it was with disappointment that I announced my withdrawal from the race. I’d made it 103kms of my 175km race, I was glad I’d made that point… But to go on was not going to happen.
Am I disappointed that I DNF’d? Yes, but it just wasn’t my day. I’ve run 100kms before without any issues and I gave it my all on this day as well, it just didn’t go in my favour. I think a few factors played into this. Firstly, the heat. I’d only had one hot day during training and I’d really noticed it, but with most of my training taking place in the early hours of the morning with cold temperatures and the weekends not being particularly warm my body wasn’t yet adjusted to the summer running temps. The heat in Congewai really knocked me around. The other main factor was that I’d overtrained, my body was telling me this two weeks before the race and I wasn’t sure I’d make the start line, let alone CP1 or any further. That two weeks were stressful as I was desperately doing everything I could to get to the start line. I wasn’t training, I wasn’t eating enough (no training meant I lost my runners appetite, plus stress causes me to lose my appetite) and the stress can’t have helped. The other factors which I’d look into for future races would be my nutrition and hydration. I thought I was drinking to thirst, but maybe I needed to drink more and worry less about how much water I was carrying, just drink the water…. If I run out, deal with it then, don’t get dehydrated. Plus I need to look at what else I can stomach during a race (Although I do like my Nutella sandwiches)
I’d like to thank my support crew Mum & Matt who were there at the checkpoints and getting me through as far as I could. My potential pacers Ryan, Kirsten and Katy who I’m very disappointed that I didn’t get to run with. Dad who was checking up on me at Yarramalong and the First Aid crew who looked after me. Plus of course all the volunteers at the checkpoints and the other runners I met on the course. It’s the people that make the event.
Will I be back next year? Of course…. I love a challenge! Especially a challenge that has defeated me. You’re going down GNW100m next year, you and me…. I will crush you!